The Oxford Union has been rocked by allegations of sexism and illegal activities, including blackmail and computer hacking, after annual elections turned sour.
One committee member at Oxford University's debating society has resigned from the union saying she was victimised by "misogynistic" abuse during her campaign to become librarian.
Emails containing three memes of hopeful librarian candidate Amelia Hamer were circulated to members of the Oxford Union (OU), accompanied with the text: "Only girl - comes 4th", "Vote Amelia - tribbed, and "gets sponsorship - Prize: BJ", student newspaper Cherwell reported.
Cherwell student newspaper was leaked a copy of one of the memes
Hamer told the paper she had been called an "evil bitch" as a result of the memes: "[I] felt personally victimised by the sexist and misogynistic nature of the memes, especially as one of the few women on standing committee at the time.
"In an institution that claims to be becoming more 'progressive', the sexism I experienced whilst on committee seemed anything but.
"As I entered the Union last Friday to vote, I was jeered at by other members of committee. Indeed, many of my friends who went down to vote came back reporting that they had been told in the Union Courtyard various derogatory things about me, perhaps the kindest of which being that I was an 'evil bitch'."
The union's secretary Cai Wilshaw has admitted he helped create the memes, and has since resigned as a result of his actions - just three days after he was elected. Wilshaw has been accused of attempting to hack his election competitors' computers, but says he himself was a victim of hacking and blackmail.
Oxford student Cai Wilshaw's Twitter bio
In an open letter, which can be read at the bottom of this article, Wilshaw apologised to the union's members and said the memes were in "bad taste", but taken out of context and not motivated by sexism.
"While some of my behaviour may have been immature and tasteless, the actions of others against me have been far more malicious and at times illegal," he wrote. "In the week prior to the election, my computer was hacked into, and then wiped. The evidence illegally obtained from my computer was then used as blackmail to stop me from taking up my position, and to stop Crawford Jamieson [Amelia Hamer's competitor] from taking part in the upcoming election.
"I lost an entire year of work, along with pictures, music, and all my other files," he adds. "I have no way of proving exactly who it was that hacked my computer, blackmailed me, and spread malicious rumours.
"Whatever immature jokes I have been responsible for pale in comparison to the personally damaging allegations that I know were circulated against me, not to mention the vicious way I have been treated by those who wished to ruin my reputation."
Wilshaw made clear Jamieson played no part in the incidents.
A spokesperson for the Oxford Union said: "The allegations made in Cherwell, if true, certainly do not reflect the vast majority of the work of the Oxford Union which is focused on providing world-class speakers and events for our members."
Open letter from Cai Wilshaw, which HuffPost UK has been given permission to republish
"First of all, I'd like to apologise to Union members. There has been wrongdoing and immaturity on all sides in this term's elections, and the society's members deserve better. I don't deny that I played a part in this, and for that I am sorry. The internet memes I had a hand in creating were in bad taste, but it's worth saying that they were taken out of context, and were motivated by personal (admittedly petty) rivalry with one individual, and not remotely by sexism. While some of my behaviour may have been immature and tasteless, the actions of others against me have been far more malicious and at times illegal.
"Much of the wrongdoing of the past few weeks has gone unreported. In the week prior to the election, my computer was hacked into, and then wiped. The evidence illegally obtained from my computer was then used as blackmail to stop me from taking up my position, and to stop Crawford Jamieson from taking part in the upcoming election. Crawford, though in no way implicated in the allegations levelled against me, decided to submit to the demands of the blackmailers in order to help save my reputation. What Crawford did for me, as a friend, was an honourable act which shows the best facets of Union politics. The evidence against me, having already been used for intimidation and blackmail, was then leaked to the press in an attempt by others to ruin my character. Here is my side of the story.
"On 30th May, I left my laptop locked in one of the Union's offices after speaking in a debate about banking. I didn't take it back to college with me, and instead returned the morning after to submit my nomination for Secretary of the Union. I opened my laptop to a blank, white screen. In the middle of the screen, there was a flashing question mark. This symbol, it transpired, meant that my laptop and all its contents had been wiped. I lost an entire year of work, along with pictures, music, and all my other files. I have no way of proving exactly who it was that hacked my computer, blackmailed me, and spread malicious rumours.
"In the days following, screenshots of my laptop were shown to various senior members of the Oxford Union committee, all dated to the night of the debate, between 02:55 and 05:58 in the early morning. From the evidence that was subsequently leaked to Cherwell, it is clear that whoever hacked my computer did so with the sole aim of discovering something - anything - that could be used against me and Crawford in the Union election. With the threat of press involvement growing, both Crawford and I decided it would be easiest to give in to these tactics. We felt that such a furore over a student society election was not worth the weeks of worry that would follow.
"Though there has been wrongdoing on both sides, the treatment I have endured has been much worse than any student deserves. I never expected for my hard drive to be wiped, my personal emails to be used for blackmail and intimidation, and for my political opponents to use this illegally obtained evidence to spread malicious rumours about me amongst the student population. In the last two weeks, I received many texts from friends around Oxford who had been told that I was sent down as a result of the allegations against me - entirely false. Whatever immature jokes I have been responsible for pale in comparison to the personally damaging allegations that I know were circulated against me, not to mention the vicious way I have been treated by those who wished to ruin my reputation."
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